When I moved into my new house in Seoul last month, the area behind was covered in brush and garbage. I asked the owner to clear the space, which she did last weekend, and now I’ve started gardening.
The lettuces you see in the rear belong to the grandpa with the brown miniature poodle who lives a couple of houses down the street. The area behind our house was NOT a community garden at ALL, but I guess the grandpa has decided that indeed, it is now.
I planted flowers around the perimeter earlier in the week as a visual signal to people that this is supposed to be a beautiful area, not the neighborhood dumping ground. But last night I heard digging at 2 a.m. When I went out to look this morning, the grandpa was there. He told me that he had arranged my flowers in this better way. He had dug them all up and put them where you see them now. He has also planted his pepper plants here and some other vegetables. I got tons and tons of advice on watering, planting seeds, and placement. I was pretty mad at first, since I take great pleasure in designing my garden (NO FARM ROWS!), but I guess it is not worth fighting over. Personal space, in Korea, is inside one’s own house only!
I have noticed that my garden attracts the attention of gaggles and gaggles of middle-aged women and grandpas, all of whom have advice or comments. I’m trying to think of it as a chance to interact with people in the little neighborhood where I live. (It’s also a free language lesson: I learned that the verb “to plant” is 심다 and you “raise” plants the same way you “raise” children: 키우다.)
I have dill, thyme, cilantro, zucchini, cucumber, lettuce, various flowers, green pepper, spearmint, and rosemary. Kind of a weird garden but it seemed that just getting it in was a challenge this year. Next year I’ll be more prepared. I will also try some perennials next year because I don’t think we’ll stay in this house forever, so it will be nice to leave something for the next resident. The exposure is southwest and I have to carry all the water by hand, so we’ll see what lives.
There is a ton of garbage in the soil, still, so this weekend I am going out with a trash bag to pick the galbi bones, pieces of broken glass, and cigarette butts out of my garden. While I’m at it, maybe I should get into the community spirit and walk down the street and pick up trash, since nobody else seems to care.
(And thanks, Adam, for helping me buy the plants!)